A very popular question I see in our inbox and many raw feeding Facebook groups is: my dog has stopped eating their raw dog food, why???!!!
The first thing to rule out is any health issues. If you find that your dog is refusing their food while also showing other symptoms like lethargy/fatigue, digestive issues, drooling, uncharacteristic behaviour changes etc. A visit to the vet may be needed.
Assuming your dog is healthy, below are a number of reasons why your dog might be refusing their food and actions you can take to help.
History of Pickiness
The first thing to ask yourself is, have they refused in the past? If the answer is yes, then it might be a behaviour trait for your dog. Or it could be that they don't feel comfortable eating in difference scenarios. It might be helpful to take note of what is happening during this time and see if there are patterns for when they refuse their food.
- has there been a weather change?
- do you have house guests?
- is a normal family member away?
- have they recently been to the groomer or daycare?
- has their activity levels changed?
If the answer is no they haven't refused, the above questions will still be helpful in trying to determine the cause.
Lack of Variety
It's normal for some dogs to refuse their food after they've had some tummy issues. They might even associate their food with the feeling of being sick, even if it wasn't the cause. This is again where rotation can be important. A break from the food they were eating might be what they need.
Dental issues can be hard to detect in dogs (which is why a regular check up is needed!) and the symptoms can vary. If your dog is refusing their food, it could be that their mouth is in pain from a broken or loose tooth, or gingivitis.
A change of season can play a role.
In the summer when the heat is at it's strongest, your dog might not feel like eating quite like they usually do. Summer might mean your pups are in rest mode, moving less and adjusting their energy requirements accordingly. They might be telling you that during this period, they don't need as much food.
Do they welcome breakfast and dismiss dinner? Adjust mealtimes to cooler parts of the day or serve in a shady spot in the back yard. Try different scenarios to see what works best for your pup.
Summer is a good time to focus on cooling foods like: blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, beef, tripe
, eggs, yogurt, kale, broccoli, kelp.
Has your dog been on any new medications? Some medications can alter your dogs appetite.
Some dogs are particular about texture and temperature. Some options are to feed partially frozen or at room temperature. I wouldn't recommend cooking, but you can add some hot water to see if it helps.
Add something with a harder texture like freeze dried raw food
to add some crunch or some raw meaty bones like chicken necks or frozen herring.
If hard textures are out, try blending the raw dog food
further for a smoother consistency.
If your dog is stressed or has a tendency to be anxious, this can affect their appetite. Stress can be from moving, new people in the house, new family members (children or pets), change in routine, etc.
Some dogs respond to environment changes like being away from home or when family members are away from home by refusing to eat their food.
Try reducing their stress with some play or one on one time before meals. The activities can help move their system out of fight or flight mode into a rest and digest mode.
Using the Mine Pet Platter as noted above can also help reducing stress and anxiety around mealtime. The open space is inviting for them and by spreading out the food on the platter, it encourages their "hunting" drive by encouraging sniffing and exploration of their food.
Continue to Refuse
As you can see, there are various reasons for a dog to refuse their food. For some people it will take some trial and error to determine the cause. It can be frustrating. But try not to stress as your dog will pick up on this energy and it might fuel their hunger strike further.
More actions to take if your dog continues to refuse:
- take them for a walk or play fetch before dinner to stimulate their appetite
- adjust mealtimes to once a day
- play around with feeding at different times during the day
- eliminate or cut back on treats
- change where you feed them. If you feed inside, maybe they might be more interested in the food outside or in another area of the house.
Here is a great comment from one of our #granddograwpack members about how they were able to get one of their dogs to eat:
It's important to know that healthy adult dogs will not starve themselves. In fact, there are many that would say that fasting is a great way to create and maintain a healthy immune system. Some raw feeders will incorporate a fasting day weekly or monthly for this reason. Learn more about the benefits of fasting your dog.
On average, healthy, adult dogs can go 3-5 days without eating. Smaller dogs can go 2-3 days without eating. This is if they have access to lots of drinking water.
NOTE: Do not fast dogs under 1 year old. Puppies require regular meals during the day, especially in the first 6 months of their lives.
Some dogs who are stubborn, will require consistency and persistence. Dogs can pick up on habits, so if you offer something else after they refused the food you gave them, they will learn they can train you instead of the other way around! Set down their food and walk away. Give them 10-20 minutes and if they don't eat it, pick up, put in the fridge and try again later. It may mean that they don't eat their dinner - and that's ok for adult dogs.
If you find you need some extra support, tripe
is the number one thing that can entice a hesitant eater. If you haven't used it before, it is VERY smelly, but dogs love it enticing even the pickiest eaters. I would recommend mixing it in with the raw dog food. Our Doggy Moggy Beef
meal already have it included.
You can also add sardines or Green Eggs Green Lipped Mussel powder
. Green lipped mussels are also great for joint health and are anti-inflammatory. Some people also have success with sprinkling freeze dried fish on top.
Are you a multi dog household? When one dog refuses their food, you might find that others will join in. I have seen this happen numerous times and I believe that the dogs are picking up on each others energies. Depending on the dogs, they might feel the need to fast in solidarity.
In these cases, it might be helpful to feed each dog separately without the others around. Then try determine who the energy is stemming from (if you don't already know) and use the tips above to try to get back on track.
SHARE WITH THE COMMUNITY
I know there are other great tips people have found worked for their pups! We would love to hear your stories and what you did to help your dogs with their food; share them in the comments below!
Amanda Monsma (she/her)
Disclaimer: All information presented on this website is for informational and/or educational purposes only and based on our experience and those shared by our clients. These statements have not been evaluated by a veterinarian. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is not intended to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian for your dog’s specific health concerns.